Friday, 31 January 2020

Procraftination & Craftermath

" I cursed you as I procraftinated for weeks and then double cursed you in the craftermath."
The workshop participants are usually on their best behavior the first few hours of the workshop.
We meet in a calm hotel lobby in the chaos of downtown Tokyo at ten in the morning and I have them in the quiet mountain village by twelve for lunch. There is always that WTF-how-did-I-get-here-? feeling in the house as they peek in their rooms and check out the house and pets and bathrooms. Then they stealthy eye up their fellow indigo otters. (And the otter chief.)
But the happy-happy-craft-holiday-in Japan-spirit is present and thick. 
After lunch we gather round the table and look at the dreaded homework. (They inevitably shyly boast of how they were stitching the last twenty rows on the airplane.)
A total group of strangers and they have to show what work they have done in preparation the past few months.
Judgement time. 
I send out a homework box from Japan to their homes around the world in advance. There is not enough time to stitch and cut stencils once they are here. I use the homework projects to keep them busy to the point-of-almost-desperation the entire ten days. 
There are two bigger projects that take time and talent.
Cutting a few stencils on the smokey smelling traditional persimmon tannin paper.
A woodgrain stitching project that can take up to 50 hours of stitching. A pattern is drawn on and the horizontal stitches and jumps determent the pattern. I send an amazing 2 meter piece of crinkle fine linen for this project. It dyes in indigo to perfection. 
The patterns each has chosen and drawn on with disappearing orchid ink are of endless interest to the young indigo otters. Each person stitches differently. Some have incredibly fine even stitches covering the entire cloth. Others have rough irregular stitches. These details are quietly noted with pursed otter lips and twitching whiskers standing around the table. 
Over the next ten days the threads are meticulously drawn up and tied and dyed in indigo twelve dips/ twelve oxidations and then opened rinsed and taken to the river and beaten until the water runs clear and the blue is deep and gorgeous.
The process binds the otters as they see the pride and hard work and determination in each other through the steps. 
One Scottish lady years ago had a tad too much rice wine at the welcome lunch. She didn't seem so plussed about putting her work on display either. 
" I cursed you Bryan as I procraftinated for weeks and then double cursed you in the craftermath."
Fer a wee moment we taut 'er accent was bit 'ard to understand.( Or she 'ad a wee bit of a wisp. )
Then we all cracked up.
I am putting together the 50 spring homework boxes right now to get them in the mail in a few days. 
It has become a winter tradition. Hiro was in the hospital this winter and that gave me plenty of time at home being serious and focused on methodical tasks.
Finding cute stamps for the box, endless postal form filling and double checking everything is in each box and they inch towards the post office....
The country town post office workers dread the days I swamp them with a truck load of homework boxes. 
It is comforting to know that the boxes are opened all over the world with anticipation and delight. It adds to the excitement of their trips to Japan.


  1. WOW WOW WOW What wonderful work!!!!! I so enjoy reading about your workshops and your life. Too bad I have a hard time leaving our little town let alone travel half way across the world...but if I could...I WOULD! Thanks for sharing!

  2. it all sounds very familiar. How many people sit up and stitch until midnight every night and are still dyeing an hour before leaving for the train? Fond memories.

    1. And sitting on a fifteen hour flight home with wet indigo spelling shoes!

  3. Beautiful. I am so envious of those that are able to attend your workshops. My idea of a perfect retreat

  4. indigo otters? otter chief? I need some visuals; maybe indigo, maybe tattoos, maybe indigo tattoo on willing characters? And an otter chief? Who, where? These images require a story, an anime, a tee shirt at least. I am smiling as I suggest: otter animal crackers w/ indigo designs. I'm a little (?) loopy right now due to two weeks of deadlines AND the flu layered over that!! Still, someone can do all of these things right? Bless you!

  5. I would like to come back and learn the hanten jacket. Sumimasen

  6. thoroughly enjoyable post.
    hope hiro's on the mend.hugs to both

  7. Oh wow. They are just so beautiful!